Take a break

Two weeks ago I took the kids to Knoxville to watch our Vols destroy BYU, and to send their boys back to Utah with a lesson learned.

We had a great time. We got to spend a couple hours at a fantastic tailgate with my old roommate and his wife and other assorted friends and visitors, then Ella got to see the Tennessee dance team up close, so close that she actually got the jitters. I was able to "high five" with Smokey, which was very cool, or very weird. Probably cool.

Everything was great, until the game started. Check that. Everything was great until the game ended. Then 90,000 of us wearing orange zombie-walked out of Neyland Stadium, with the main topic of discussion being what kind of basketball team we'll have next year.

The next morning we got up early and left Knoxville, going to stop by Granville to check on the folks. As we pulled off the interstate in Baxter, I asked Ella if she wanted to do something different. She said sure, so we went a little farther north and took the time to visit Cummins Falls. Cummins Falls is a relatively new state park, and may be the prettiest place in Jackson County that isn't in Granville.

We decided that it didn't matter whether we were properly dressed, that this was a perfect chance to go swimming, or rock climbing, or snake avoiding, or whatever else the wilderness might throw at us. Cummins Falls is gorgeous, but it is impossible to get to. The trek to the falls includes rappelling yourself down a hillside, then sliding down a fallen poplar until you fall butt-first into smooth, water-worn rocks. They hurt, but you never want to let your kids see that, so when you cry you tell them that you're thinking about a song by Air Supply. That usually does it with my two.

After several hours of hiking up the creek bed, tripping over people who thought it would be good to bring their dogs, complete with ropes tied around their precious little necks, we finally found the actual falls. The kids were disappointed that they had no bathing suits. Not a problem, said their sympathetic dad. Just jump in with your clothes on. Ella and Cal both agreed that that was the correct answer, and for the next 90 minutes they climbed all over the rocks and stood beneath every bit of water that fell over the ledge. They also enjoyed jumping into the pool. They could have killed themselves, but that's the chance you take.

Our trip to Cummins Falls was one of the best days that we've had in a while, and probably because it was completely impromptu. I read this morning that the place has become so popular that they're probably going to start limiting visitors, by issuing just a certain number of permits per day. That's too bad, but I do understand.

I think I want to go back there with the kids, but need to do it soon, because it does take endurance and feats of strength to get down there. The hike back up the hill is even worse, but I can handle that. As Cal says, anytime that he's faced with insurmountable odds, you've just got to believe in yourself.

If you're anywhere near Jackson County, I highly encourage you to make the trip over to Cummins Falls. I exaggerated a little about getting to the falls, maybe even lied, and I bet you can make the journey down, take a swim, and climb back out. Just watch out for the bears.

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